I knew what this movie looked like, but I had to be sure. It looked like Kevin Smith had sunk to making a formulaic buddy film. But somehow I’d always thought Smith was above that. Or at least, that he thought he was above it. It turns out neither of those things is true. Cop Out is exactly what it looks like.
Don’t get me wrong, there are laughs to be had. Tracy Morgan will always supply laughs. Case in point: there is a montage scene at the beginning of the movie where he acts out a bunch of famous movie lines while interrogating a prisoner. This scene got it done in a big way. There were a few stringed together that were serious heavy-hitters, like one laugh after another. Of course I forgot most of them, but it ended with Morgan wearing glasses, smoking a cigarette, and doing the “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” line from Jaws. That had me laughing like a hyena in a semi-crowded theater by myself. Unfortunately it was the only part of the movie that really got me, and it wasn’t worth what followed.
I sort of like Bruce Willis (although I’ve never seen a Die Hard movie all the way through if you can believe that) and I’m obviously a Tracy Morgan fan. I’ve even enjoyed Sean William Scott from time to time (Road Trip, Old School). But a movie like this is totally uninteresting to me. The three most important aspects of a movie to me are plot, aesthetic, and acting, in that order. Pretty straightforward. Cop Out isn’t even trying to excel in any of those areas. It’s all about cheap laughs from famous faces.
When cheap laughs are all a movie strives for, it becomes tedious. Cop Out tries to cram comic relief into every square inch, and it feels forced. Sean William Scott’s portrayal of a crazy catburgler (dude, this guy needs to take his meds!) is painful. I’m not even really a fan of his, but he should be beyond this. It should’ve been Matthew Lillard in that role. Or David Arquette ten years ago.
And guess what? Jason Lee is in this movie! He’s doing that smile he does and talking with that sarcastic voice. It’s hilarious! What, that not enough funny for ya? How about Kevin Pollack and that guy from the OC as a wise cracking pair of detectives? I don’t want to accuse this movie of being formulaic again, but lets just say that Pollack and OC guy don’t approve of Willis and Morgan’s unconventional tactics. Or the way they dress (tee-hee!)!
Its all just shoved down your throat from the word go. In particular while watching Pollack and Adam Brodie (just looked him up) I was unsure if/when I was supposed to be laughing. Are these the bad guys, or….whats going on here? Actually, that holds true for all of the characters I’ve mentioned. I was often confused as to whether these people were bad guys I should be rooting against, or just more attempts at comic relief. My inner monologue was like, “Surely they’re not expecting Kevin Pollack to get laughs, are they? Did they see him at the Shatner Roast?”
But it turns out Pollack is supposed to be funny. Everyone is. They even threw in Rashida Jones as Morgan’s girlfriend and the Cuban guy from Half Baked as the villain. Its not that I don’t like all of these people. I’m mostly indifferent to them. But it seemed like the strategy was to fill the movie with people who had been in other funny things and just hope for the best. It worked for Tracy Morgan. He’s an exceptional talent. The rest fell short. Even Morgan’s routine became tiresome after a while. He obviously functions best in an ensemble, not as part of a 1-2 punch with a former action hero.
I didn’t expect Cop Out to be good, but I was mildly interested in seeing it because I wanted to keep tabs on Kevin Smith. His success has always baffled me. I know a lot of people love him, but who are these people? The easy answer is stoners. Then again, I’ve known A LOT of stoners in my day, and I can’t remember that many of them having been fans of Kevin Smith. Am I too old to get Smith? Too young? I can remember thinking some of his movies were kind of funny once upon a time, but when I watched them in college or beyond I was like, “Oh, wait. This isn’t funny.” Jason Mewes is the only part I still find remotely enjoyable.
People probably like Kevin Smith movies because of nostalgia. I can understand that, but its been how many years since Mallrats? The movies he’s directed in the past 10 years are Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, Clerks 2, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and Cop Out. Not exactly a murderer’s row. And Dogma? The last time I saw Dogma I barely cracked a smile, and I HATE the Catholic Church. I guess I just feel like Smith has always gotten a little more credit for being cool than he deserves. He makes movies for stoners but he’s never been a pot smoker. He gives lectures and does podcasts where he almost seems funny, but not quite. He wears gigantic shorts. He was still playing Silent Bob (who was never funny) when he was 36 years old. He’s gone from making indie films to doing Cop Out for Warner Brothers. Is this really a cool guy?
I guess it doesn’t really matter. What matters are his movies. And if you ask me his movies haven’t been relevant for a long, long time.
next week: Alice in Wonderland. Love Burton, love Alice, love 3D, love Depp. So why do I still have reservations?